Friday, December 30, 2005

Team Abramoff, back on January 9th - Be there!

Chicago Tribune: Highflying Lobbyist takes the Plunge

HighViz's Connection (click here)

Jack Abramoff's troubles echo loudly in capital's halls of power
By Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi -
The Washington Post - Published December 30, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Jack Abramoff liked to slip into dialogue from "The Godfather" as he led his lobbying colleagues in planning their next conquest on Capitol Hill. In a favorite bit, he would mimic Michael Corleone facing down a crooked politician's demand for a cut of Mafia gambling profits: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing." (So what?? Nancy Pelosi can go Hollywood at any time!)

The playacting provided a clue to how Abramoff saw himself--the power behind the scenes who directed millions of dollars in Indian gambling proceeds to favored lawmakers, the puppet master who pulled the strings of officials, the businessman building a casino empire.


Team Abramoff was taking away tribal clients from other lobbyists and charging 10 or 20 times what the Indians had been paying to others. Team members did it by touting their ties to powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill and stoking tribal worries that Congress might try to tax casino proceeds.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) remembers hearing "vague complaints" about Abramoff in June 2003 from three Democratic lobbyists. The tribes traditionally had supported Democrats, but Abramoff was getting them to give two-thirds of their contributions to Republicans.

There was even more buzz on Capitol Hill about Scanlon, a former DeLay press aide who had become a multimillionaire almost overnight. Scanlon, then in his early 30s, was traveling to the beach by helicopter and living in a mansion in Rehoboth Beach, Del., that he bought for nearly $5 million in cash.

A lobbyist who was one of Abramoff's rivals contacted the Post in fall 2003, and in early 2004, the newspaper reported that four of Greenberg Traurig's Indian clients had paid $45 million, most of it in fees to Scanlon's firm. Within weeks, Greenberg Traurig initiated an internal investigation, Abramoff was ousted, and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee began an inquiry.

By the spring of 2004, the Justice Department had launched an investigation that developed into a multiagency task force.

Nearly two years later, Abramoff's legal troubles appear to threaten many careers in Washington. Sources say a half-dozen lawmakers are under scrutiny, along with Capitol Hill aides, former business associates and government officials.

Two of Abramoff's former business partners, Scanlon and Adam Kidan, have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify. Another former Abramoff associate, David Safavian, has been indicted on five felony counts of lying to investigators about dealings with Abramoff while he was the General Services Administration's chief of staff.

Abramoff is under pressure to reach a deal before his trial begins Jan. 9 on accusations of fraud involving the purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats.

Dozens of lawmakers--who were showered with dinners, trips and sports and concert tickets--are returning campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. (((They are nervous crowd, aren't they?))))


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